Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Moral Equivocation Between Israel and Hamas? It Doesn't Exist!

The latest conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israel only reminds me how little has changed since Hamas' inception in 1987. Unfortunately, Hamas doesn't simply like to play dirty when they fire rockets. They also do so in their PR campaign by equating Palestinian terrorism with Israeli retaliation of Hamas bombarding the Jewish state with rockets. It seems simple to just give each party half of the blame, to say "Israel's partly to blame, Palestine is partly to blame. Both sides are using violence, so let's split the blame down the middle." This moral equivocation is as untrue as it is misleading. In the moral sphere, Israel is hands-down superior to Hamas. The difference between the two is as clear as night and day, as Charles Krauthammer astutely illustrates. The facts support this stark difference, and I will elucidate upon that right now.

Let's start with defining Israel and the Gaza Strip in geopolitical terms. Israel is a democratic nation-state with a rule of law, social change, and civil society. Gaza is an authoritarian state that is run by Hamas, a branch organization of the Muslim Brotherhood that was elected by the majority of Gazans back in 2007. Hamas is anti-Western, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, and virulently hateful. When looking at its Freedom House score, Hamas, and Palestine in general, has no respect for freedom, civil society, or human rights.  Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Is it a surprise that Canada, the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Japan have declared Hamas as a terrorist organization?

While Hamas has territorial ambitions and is hellbent on destroying the Jewish people, Israel wants to be left in peace. Israel neither has territorial ambitions nor is genocidal. How so? Those who are anti-Israel like to use the amount of land Israel had during UN Resolution 181 as a starting point for territorial ambition. That way, it makes the Six-Day War look like a land grab. For one, the Israeli government returned both the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank after the Six Day War. Two, if Israel were really hellbent on land, it wouldn't have disengaged from Gaza back in 2005. Three, let's take a look at the square milage a little further back....let's say at around the Balfour Declaration since this was the first formal, international recognition of a Jewish state. The Jewish people were offered much more land during this time, and actually gave Transjordan in hopes for there to be peace in the Middle East.

Genocide is as ridiculous of a claim as being colonial land grabbers. If Israel were such a genocidal nation-state, why would the Gazan population continue to increase? If Israel wanted to indiscriminately wipe out Gazans, my guess is that it has the military might to do so, but interestingly enough, it has not. If genocide were hypothetically a goal of the Israeli government, Israel does a bang-up job of it, much like it does with its "colonization" and still only has a piece of land the size of New Jersey. What reality reflects is that contrary to the Palestinian image of a "big, bad Israel," Israel actually does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

That is why comparing tactics between the two entities also matters. Israel actually has respect for human life. Hamas spits on the notion. Israel uses bomb shelters to protect people. Hamas uses civilian areas to protect bombs, thereby turning the Gazans into human shields. Israel shouldn't be chided in the international media simply because it succeeds at protecting its citizens. These despicable tactics are nothing new. At least the United Nations is finally starting to catch on, particularly when it recently condemned Hamas for placing rockets in schools. Hamas is one to indiscriminately target Israeli civilians. Israel aims for military targets derived from legitimate intelligence gathering. The Israeli government calls the landlines and the cellphones to notify all civilians to evacuate the building before the IDF targets it, which is yet another reason the notion of genocide is ridiculous. Even though I disagree with the IDF providing advanced notification, it still does a lot to elevate the moral standards of military combat.

Before concluding, I would like to respond to the criticism of the number of Palestinian deaths being disproportionate to Israeli deaths, and that's assuming you can even trust the numbers coming out of Gaza. First and foremost, as already illustrated, the Hamas-run government has no respect for the lives of their citizens. Hamas uses their people as human shields, which is why their death toll remains relatively high to Israel. Israel protects its citizens, which is why their death toll remains relatively small. That is why it is important to think of the raw data versus the adjusted data. Second, you should be glad that Israel doesn't attack proportionately because if it did, it would fire a rocket into a civilian center each time Hamas did. Third, where is the moral outrage over Hamas firing rockets into Israel? Fourth, while the death of any human being is unfortunate, if we're going to make the argument that "people getting killed in international [or intranational] conflict or warfare like this is wrong," let's put the numbers into a greater context. If you're worried about Palestinians being killed, how about the 2,000-plus Palestinians that have been killed in the Syrian conflict since 2011 alone? Not a peep from so-called "pro-Palestinian" advocates. The number of Arabs killed since the modern-day Arab-Israeli conflict began in the 1920's, most of whom were Arab soldiers hellbent on wiping out the Jewish state, is less than the number of Arabs killed by the Syrian government since 2011. If you're worried about Muslims being killed, how about those killed in the Arab Spring, the Iraq War, Chechnyans killed by Russians, or the Afghan Muslims killed by either the Russians or Americans? If killing humans is an issue, what about Sudan, Kosovo, Rwanda, or other despicable acts of genocide? Those were human rights violations in the recent past, yet they have not received an iota of the animosity that Israel receives for defending itself. Israel is way at the bottom of the list of global offenders of human rights. Finally, what does proportionality have to do with ethics or morality? This is wartime, not teatime. You are talking about a deranged governmental entity that wants you dead and is willing to use military force to try to wipe you out. If you're going to even attempt to criticize Israel based on the death toll, at least have the decency to do so with context.

Furthermore, what do you expect Israel to do? Ask Hamas nicely to stop? There have been enough peace talks, and Hamas has made no concessions towards peace. They have been firing rockets into Israel at least since 2005. Do you expect "land for peace" to work? The Jewish people have tried that more than once, and the other side still has a bloodlust and wants to see the Jewish people dead. If a hostile entity were indiscriminately firing rockets upon your people, how would you respond? Does any other country think they could handle the situation better than Israel has? Israel is making the best of a terrible situation. Israel has made a defensive response to hostile aggression, and has gone well beyond the call of duty in terms of civil warfare. The fact that Israel did not enact a full-scale attack, even though it was well within its rights to do so, shows considerable restraint. In contrast, Hamas is perpetuating an already terrible situation by intentionally antagonizing Israel. After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the Gazan government could have invested in infrastructure, economic aid, education for its children, green technology, or healthcare. Instead, it primarily invests in weaponry and preparing itself for war. The Kurds, Sudanese, or Tibetans could have violently retaliated, but chose not to because they were better than that. Hamas should take a lesson from their example.

Much like any other nation-state, Israel is going to be imperfect because it is a governmental entity run by humans. If you want to criticize Israel, that unto itself is not a problem. If one cares about something, they will provide constructive criticism anyways. However, if you're going to be intellectually honest enough to apply the same standards to Palestine, or any other governmental entity, as you do to Israel, what you have to conclude is that without fail, Israel has the moral high ground.

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